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Five Weeknight Dishes: Corn and coconut soup, but make it lazy

By Emily Fleischaker, The New York Times

A co-worker recently used the phrase “spiritually out-of-office” to describe the vibe of summer. That slowing-down feeling applies to weeknight cooking, too. It’s hot. It’s vacation season. I say it’s normal to crave a few extra shortcuts and a little more time on the couch.

Below are some ideas (should I call them confessions?) to alter recipes when cooking dinner feels like scaling a 6-foot wall. A note of warning: These recipes simply won’t be as delicious as initially written. But they will still be much better than ordering overpriced takeout, and can help you manifest the lazy summer you deserve.

1. Spicy Corn and Coconut Soup

A good corn soup is creamy and naturally sweet; an even better corn soup is spicy, refreshing and addictive. In this recipe, it’s the combination of shallots, garlic, ginger, chiles and coconut milk, rather than heavy cream or butter, that makes the soup at once cooling and rich. It’s a dinner in a bowl (and a vegan one at that), but it would surely welcome a side of steamed rice or salad of leafy greens. To serve, add garnishes that are any combination of spicy (extra fresh chile or store-bought chile oil), crunchy (toasted coconut, chopped peanuts or cashews, fried shallots) or fresh (torn cilantro, chopped scallions), and it’ll be even more dynamic.

By Sarah Jampel

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 30 minutes


  • 5 ears yellow or bicolor corn (or 5 cups frozen corn kernels)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced into rings
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 serrano chile (or other chile), minced
  • 2 small red potatoes (6 to 8 ounces total), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth (or 2 1/2 cups of hot water whisked with 1 1/2 teaspoons jarred bouillon)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice (from 1/2 lime)
  • Kosher salt, to season
  • Torn cilantro leaves, toasted coconut flakes, chopped roasted peanuts, crispy fried shallots, lime wedges and more sliced Serrano chiles, to serve (optional)


1. Cut the corn kernels off the cobs and transfer to a bowl. Using the back of a butter knife, scrape the cobs so that all of the milky juices collect in the bowl and the cobs look completely dry, like wrung-out sponges. Set aside. (If using frozen kernels, skip this step.)

2. In a large stockpot over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add shallots, garlic, ginger and chile, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until soft and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Add corn kernels and juices to the pot, and sauté until the corn is softer and brighter, about 3 minutes more.

3. Add potato pieces, and stir to coat, 1 to 2 minutes.

4. Now, pour in the vegetable broth and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until the potatoes are tender all the way through.

5. Use an immersion blender to roughly purée the soup, so that it’s creamy with some kernels of corn, chunks of potato, and chile flecks remaining. (Alternatively, ladle about half of the soup into a blender, blend until smooth, and return to the pot.) Season with lime juice and salt, and mix to combine. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with toppings of your choice.

MAKE IT LAZY: Use frozen corn kernels. Slice or grate the garlic instead of mincing. Don’t bother peeling the ginger. Use crushed red pepper flakes instead of slicing a fresh chile. If you’re really pressed, don’t even blend it, but in that case, be sure to really shake or whisk the coconut milk before adding. And toppings? Optional.

2. Sheet-Pan Chicken With Chickpeas, Cumin and Turmeric

The yogurt marinade does two very important jobs in this sheet-pan chicken recipe. One, the acidity in the marinade helps tenderize the meat, and two, the sugars in the yogurt help brown and caramelize the skin of the chicken as it roasts. Be sure to toss the chickpeas occasionally as they roast to encourage them to get coated in the chicken fat as it renders.

By Alison Roman

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 1 hour, plus marinating


  • 1 (3 1/2 to 4 pound) chicken, cut into parts (alternatively, 3 to 3 1/2 pounds of bone-in, skin-on chicken parts, such as breasts, thighs and legs)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups full-fat Greek yogurt, divided
  • 5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric, divided
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup mint or cilantro leaves, torn


1. Season chicken parts with salt and pepper.

2. Combine 3/4 cup yogurt, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon turmeric and 2 tablespoons water in a large bowl. Season well with salt and pepper. (It should be on the salty side, as this is a marinade.) Add chicken and toss to coat evenly. Let sit at least 30 minutes at room temperature, and up to overnight in the refrigerator.

3. Place oven rack on the top third of the oven and heat to 425 degrees.

4. Combine chickpeas, fennel seed, cumin, remaining teaspoon of turmeric and half the red onion slices on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat.

5. Move chickpeas to the outer edges of the baking sheet. Scrape any excess marinade off the chicken, and place the chicken parts in the center. Place baking sheet in oven and bake, tossing chickpeas occasionally, until the skin of the chicken is evenly browned and the chickpeas are golden and starting to crisp, 45 to 50 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, toss remaining onion slices with 2 tablespoons lemon juice and season with salt and pepper; set aside.

7. Combine remaining yogurt with remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice and season with salt and pepper; set aside.

8. Once chicken is ready, scatter with lemony onions and mint or cilantro. Serve with seasoned yogurt alongside as a sauce.

MAKE IT LAZY: Skip the yogurt marinade. Skip the red onion and the herbs, if you want. It’ll be OK! It’ll still be dinner.

3. Crispy Tofu with Cashews and Blistered Snap Peas

A ginger and coconut milk reduction can coat pretty much anything that browns nicely on its own. Here, it’s pieces of pan-seared tofu, but small morsels of chicken and pork will work just as well. The soy and the teaspoons of molasses give the sauce a little caramelization, and a little shine and gloss. For a fresh side, add some blistered snap peas, tossed with sliced scallions, a little mint and a splash of rice vinegar. Snow peas, green beans, broccoli or asparagus? If it’s fresh and green, it’ll work just fine.

By Yewande Komolafe

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 30 minutes


  • 1 (14-ounce) block firm or extra-firm tofu, drained
  • 3 tablespoons neutral oil, such as grapeseed, vegetable or canola, plus more as needed
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 3/4 pound snap peas, trimmed
  • 1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 (13-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk (light or full-fat)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons molasses, dark brown sugar or honey
  • 1/2 cup toasted cashews
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 4 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves, torn if large
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes (optional)
  • Rice or any steamed grain, for serving


1. Slice the tofu in half horizontally, and leave on paper towels to dry any excess liquid.

2. In a medium skillet or cast-iron pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high until it shimmers. Season both sides of the tofu with salt and black pepper, place in the pan and sear without moving until tofu is browned and golden on both sides, turning once halfway through, about 8 minutes total. Move the tofu to a plate.

3. Add 1 tablespoon oil to the pan, and add the snap peas. Cook, stirring occasionally, until blistered and just tender, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and move to a bowl.

4. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, add the ginger and garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in the coconut milk, soy sauce and molasses. Simmer, stirring frequently until the sauce reduces and its color deepens to a dark brown, about 6 to 8 minutes. It should coat a spoon without running right off. Stir in the cashews, break the tofu into 1-inch pieces and toss in the pan to coat with sauce. Remove from heat, and taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

5. Toss the snap peas with the rice vinegar, scallions, mint and red-pepper flakes, if using. Divide among plates, along with the tofu and cashews. Serve with rice or any steamed grain.

MAKE IT LAZY: Skip the ginger or garlic if you need to, but probably not both. Note that you can use honey instead of molasses. Skip the dressing for the snap peas and just drizzle some rice vinegar or lime juice over the whole dish. Serve with microwave rice.

4. Pasta With Green Beans and Almond Gremolata

Celery, an underappreciated vegetable relegated to making stocks and mirepoix, rarely gets the attention it deserves. It’s available in the grocery store year-round. Come late summer, it starts popping up in farmers’ markets everywhere, and it deserves to shine. In this dish, its pleasantly bitter leaves are used in a unique take on gremolata, a fresh herb condiment traditionally made with Italian parsley (which you can also use here). Snappy green beans, also readily available in late summer, round out this unassuming, but impressive pasta you’ll want to make again and again no matter what the season.

By Colu Henry

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Total time: 30 minutes


For the gremolata:

  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • Scant 1/3 cup finely chopped celery leaves or parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest (from 1 medium lemon), plus more for serving
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • Kosher salt

For the pasta:

  • 1 pound gemelli, campanelle or cavatappi
  • 3/4 pound string beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino or Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • Kosher salt, to taste


1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water (2 heaping tablespoons kosher salt to about 7 quarts water) to a boil. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-low heat, toast the almonds, stirring frequently so they don’t burn, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat. In a medium bowl, combine the almonds, celery or parsley leaves, lemon zest, garlic and a pinch of salt. Set aside and wipe out skillet.

2. Add pasta to boiling water and cook until it is al dente, according to package directions. About 2 minutes before it’s done, add the beans to the pasta pot. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, and drain the pasta and beans.

3. While the pasta and beans drain, make the sauce: Heat the olive oil in the large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and red-pepper flakes and cook until the garlic is golden in color, about 1 to 2 minutes. Turn heat to low and add 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water to the skillet (be careful of splattering) and cook until it is reduced by about half, 1 to 2 minutes more. Turn heat to medium and add the pasta, green beans and butter to the skillet and toss until the butter melts. Add the cheese and an additional 1/4 cup water and toss until the cheese is emulsified and the pasta is glossy with sauce. If needed, add an additional 1/4 cup pasta water to loosen. Season with kosher salt, to taste.

4. Transfer the pasta to a large bowl, top with gremolata and drizzle with more olive oil. Pass additional grated cheese at the table, if desired.

MAKE IT LAZY: Skip the gremolata and instead just zest and squeeze some lemon on top of the final dish. If you have the energy, chopped toasted almonds are nice for texture, but extremely optional.

5. Mahi ba Somagh (Sumac Roasted Fish)

This flavorful and bright preparation of mahi, which means fish in Persian (not to be confused with mahi-mahi), comes together quickly. In keeping with the sour-leaning Iranian palate, a generous sprinkling of tart sumac and a drizzle of fragrant orange and lime juices coat butterflied whole fish. If your sumac has been languishing in the back of the spice drawer for some time, get a new jar. Over time, sumac loses its fragrance and punchy flavor and becomes bitter and bland. The key to successfully roasting the fish is to remove excess moisture by patting them dry with paper towels. Serve with a side of rice with tahdig, plain steamed rice or oven-baked fries and a simple salad.

By Naz Deravian

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 15 minutes


  • 2 large branzini or trout (about 1 1/2 pounds each), butterflied, heads and tails kept on if desired
  • 1 medium orange
  • 1 medium lime
  • 1 tablespoon sumac
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
  • Fresh mint leaves, torn, for serving (optional)


1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat oven to 450 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Use paper towels to gently pat the fish dry inside and out, and place the fish on the prepared pan.

2. Zest half of the orange directly into a small bowl, then squeeze in the juice from that half (about 3 tablespoons) and the juice from half of the lime (just under 1 tablespoon). Slice the remaining orange and lime halves and set aside for serving. In another small bowl, combine the sumac and turmeric.

3. Drizzle the fish with the olive oil inside and out. Open the fish up like books and evenly sprinkle with the pepper and salt. (If using fine salt or coarse kosher salt, use 3/4 teaspoon.) Arrange the open fish in a single layer, angling and overlapping slightly if needed to fit. Drizzle on the citrus mixture and then dust with the sumac mixture to cover most of the flesh.

4. Roast the fish until flaky and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Garnish with the reserved orange slices, lime slices and fresh mint, and serve.

MAKE IT LAZY: Ask the fishmonger at the seafood counter to gut, scale and butterfly the fish for you. If a butterflied trout isn’t happening for you, use a filet of anything you may have — tilapia, halibut, salmon — and adjust the oven time to the filet’s thickness. Serve with couscous, the laziest grain.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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